Yes, I had planned to make these last few days of the year nothing but images and I will get back to that but I wanted to share something I learned, or am still trying to learn, from my daughter.
Perhaps she has the perspective she does because she hasn’t spent day after day with her grandmother. Perhaps it is once again proof that she is a more insightful, evolved person than I. She often will say something profound as if stating the obvious and then be surprised that I find it profound. Don’t get me wrong, she can also be a typical twenty something, clueless, indulgent and exasperating.
We usually have a Christmas Eve party but this year I got out of that by being out of state. I moved the party to Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. Preparations began mid-day on Christmas.
On the morning of the party, my daughter and I headed out to the market but not before I’d started food cooking in the oven and put a sauce to simmer on the stove. I had also put some bowls and platters I planned to use later into the dishwasher but it wasn’t full so I didn’t turn it on. As we left I told my mom, “We’re going to the market. We’ll be back soon. There are things in the oven and on the stove, they’ll be fine. Don’t go into the kitchen. You don’t need to do anything. Just watch TV and we’ll be back.”
When we returned, the oven was off and the sauce was no longer simmering. My mother had taken most of my things out of the dishwasher and had loaded it with every glass she could reach (none of which we would be using for the party) and had put the the dishwasher on.
I told my mom that I wished she hadn’t done any of those things and, for the twentieth time. that she didn’t need to worry about the party, we would do everything.
My daughter took me aside and said, “Mom, I know you’re a nice person but each time I hear you talk to Grandma, I have to remind myself. There is no point in telling her anything. She cannot process what you’re saying to her. She’s just going to do whatever she does and you have to accept it. When you give her orders, she can’t follow them but she will hear your tone of voice and feel bad.”
My daughter thought I was mean? I was still processing this information later that night at the party.
Having people over who she hadn’t seen my mom in a while was great. They sat with her for long stretches, patiently listening to her stories and recollections – all the same ones I knew by heart. Eventually each of them would come to me. tell me what she’d said and ask, was what she’d told them the truth? About sixty percent of what she’d told them wasn’t true. She told them her brother had just died. He passed four years ago. She told them she had only retired from her job last year. Her job was eliminated a decade ago. She told them she’d been in the hospital. She’d spent a night there after minor dental surgery three years ago. She told them she’d decorated the house and put up the Christmas lights herself. That one they all knew couldn’t be true but they still asked, wanting to have someone tell them the truth.
I wondered if there was a connection to that desire to know the truth, to have a reality check and my need to try to communicate with my mother.
I’m not sure how, as my daughter suggested, I just stop telling her things – that seems worse than not telling her. Should I tell her what day of the week it is? Is there any point in letting her know when I’m going to the market, to the movies or off to work or do I just come and go? If she asks me if my daughter is coming home from school, do I say no? Do I tell her she’s not in school? Do I tell her the truth? Does she still have any need to know the truth, to have that reality check?
I don’t want to dehumanize her and by giving up, by not trying to connect with her and connect her to the truth, I feel that that is what I would be doing. Yet I don’t want to be a mean person or make my mother feel bad. I will be more conscious of my tone of voice. I’m going to continue to make sure she’s taking her meds, eating and not doing anything harmful. I want to make it possible for her to live out the rest of her life in her own home. Perhaps that’s the best I can do.
Sorry for this rambling but I will post pictures tomorrow.